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GetOut Notebook Wildflowers and the World Wide Web

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Mandy Zajac writes and edits arts, entertainment and lifestyle content for the Get Out section of the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 5:00 am

On a hike the other day, I saw my first reminder of what spring in the desert is all about — besides sunny afternoons at the ballpark, that is. It was a flower, tiny and delicate, pushing up through the desert pavement.

I’ve covered the arrival of Arizona’s spring wildflower crop the past three years, and it’s something that folks around here never seem to tire of. You’ll see cars pulled over on the side of the road, their occupants standing a short distance away with cameras pointed at carpets of orange poppies blanketing entire slopes.

Last year, Arizona State Parks even started using Twitter to alert enthusiasts to where the latest blooms were cropping up.

The trouble is, the flowers can be elusive. They aren’t guaranteed to show up in the same places or in the same numbers every spring, and their life span is short. Many live only a week, competing with other varieties to push their way skyward before rising temperatures squelch their short window for life.

They’re sketchy little things that can leave you driving around the desert all day, hoping to spot their robust displays of color. Not exactly something most of us would sign up for, given gas prices these days.

Why bother, then? Well, as a transplant to the East Valley, I can tell you: Until you’ve seen these dainty buds bursting forth with all their brilliant, showy might, you really don’t get completely why so many of us live in this hot, arid place that can seem so inhospitable much of the year.

But save yourself some gas money. The best way to pinpoint wildflower locations is to use the central hub that those in the know turn to: Desert Botanical Garden’s Wildflower InfoSite. It’s a regularly updated map and listing of wildflower hotspots around the state.

The site is live during March and April, when wildflower watchers at parks and gardens all over Arizona phone or send in the latest information on where wildflowers are blooming. New reports are posted each week by Friday, making it a great tool for planning short scenic drives or weekend day trips.

Find the Wildflower InfoSite at dbg.org/gardening-horticulture/wildflower-infosite.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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